After the initial excitement and joy of our engagement finally settled in, my fiancé and I started to get serious about planning our nuptials. I was thrilled at the thought of planning a ceremony that would be meaningful to us and to our families, along with a party that our guests would never forget. But so many thoughts and ideas were running through my head and I found myself totally overwhelmed and intimidated by the idea of planning such a big event. Simultaneously, I was falling deeper and deeper into the wedding-inspiration Pinterest hole.
The first thing every planner, book, and bride will tell you is that selecting a location and venue for your big day is the hardest and biggest decision—and one you should make first. There’s no use falling in love with a floral arrangement or china pattern for your reception tables until you know where your reception will actually be. Once you’ve locked down your location and estimated wedding size, there’s still a lot to figure out before selecting the exact location for your big event!
Picking between wedding venues is a big deal. It’s expensive. It sets the tone. It’s the “meat” in the wedding sandwich, if you will. I have seen many a brides regret their venue choices, or become incredibly obsessed with their whole magical day. Remember choose a wedding venue that is the best fit for you.
First, before you make any venue decisions, you need to make a draft budget. Don’t sign a contract with an expensive venue, only to realize down the line that you have no money left for that DJ you’ve been coveting. Second, prep yourself with a venue research spreadsheet—a place to track all of your research on wedding venue ideas, so that you can organize it and then review it without losing your mind.
A Word of Warning: The most frustrating part of finding a venue is the initial research. Much like the college application process, venues and their websites are all completely different. They offer a variety of information in various places, and sometimes they don’t offer any information at all, which is even more fun. Try not to get too frustrated by this. If you can’t find answers on a venue’s site- reach out with your questions via email. Often venues are stingy with info online, but if approached, they have a marketing packet ready to share that has a lot of the initial information you are looking for.
Here are a few tips that we learned along the way!
If you are imaging an intimate dinner with yards of silk draping and glistening chandeliers, but the room you are looking at has soaring ceilings, it could be extra-costly for your vision to become a reality. If you have a certain mood or style you want your event to evoke, make sure you’re looking at venues that already have some of those characteristics. Otherwise, transforming your space to suit your vision could end up blowing your budget.
I had dreams of a rustic outdoor wedding in old abandoned Iron Furnaces- until I learned of a state ordinance that prohibits amplified music after 10p.m. Knowing the kind of reception we wanted to have and how important a band was in our plans, this wasn’t going to work. See ya furnaces, it would have been nice. In the same vein, if you’re hoping for a more low-key, intimate event, but the restaurant where you’d love to host your reception is next door to an all-hours karaoke bar, that may not work either.
We went to a very well known venue in our area and my fiance noticed that the wedding planner never congratulated us. It’s all part of the sales pitch. I don’t care if you see 20 brides in a day and do 150 weddings a year. When we meet please make us feel special. This is part of our experience. This will (hopefully) be the only time we are doing this- we are excited so be excited with us!
If your aunt has bad knees or you know your grandmother isn’t walking like she used to, make sure the sites of your ceremony and reception can accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, and double-check that there is an elevator, so guests aren’t forced to take the stairs. My initial venue choice (since I was 10) would have people walking a few hundred yards in grass- not the best option for elderly guests. We decided to open up another room in our venue so we had elevator access, because I knew some of our family members wouldn’t be able to do the walk up the steps.
Answer My Initial Phone Calls and Emails
Like any new relationship we need to develop our trust. When I reach out three different times and I don’t hear back- I’m not having my wedding here. When I want to bring my parents up to see the venue and you don’t seem so thrilled I’m not immediately signing on the dotted line- I’m not having my wedding here. We traveled to a potential venue and the main planner was sick and unable to meet with us. There were alternate arrangements made and a breakfast waiting for us for the “inconvenience”. It made us feel wanted which was really nice.
We looked at an absolutely adorable B&B as a potential venue for our wedding, but even pushing their capacity to the max would have meant drastically slashing our guest list. To us, it wasn’t worth having the wedding in this really great space if it meant that our friends couldn’t be there to celebrate with us. On the flip side, if you’ve always dreamed of having a reception in the grand hall of your local museum, but you only plan on inviting 50 guests, your party could end up looking a little empty and sparse.
Any other thoughts we can add to the list? Comment below- I’d love to hear!